Breaking news: we just had the biggest earthquake in 100 years here in North Carolina! Sunday morning we woke up to the whole house shaking. I immediately recognized the rumbling and jostling after living through a much stronger quake in Mexico more than 20 years ago. No damage here in the Raleigh area. But at the epicenter in Sparta, North Carolina, the 5.1 magnitude quake caused some structural damage to buildings.
In other breaking news, I can’t believe summer is almost over. Here in Raleigh we have less than one week before school starts! We’ve had a relatively lazy summer compared to our normal trips around the globe the past few years when we visited Europe, the Bahamas, and Southeast Asia.
But hey, we’re in the middle of a pandemic so I guess hunkering down at home is as good as it gets right now. This summer, we kept busy with lots of video games, board games, and books while it’s hot outside. Plus the occasional bike ride on cool days or a trip to the swimming pool when it gets particularly hot. We are making the most of life at home!
Financially speaking, July was a great month for us. Our net worth climbed $70,000 to end the month at $2,133,000. Income was relatively decent at $5,675 while our expenses came in slightly below budget at $3,035 for the entire month.
Let’s jump into the details from last month.
Investment income totaled $2,897 in July. Our equity index funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly at the end of March, June, September, and December with some payments arriving at the beginning of the next month. Here’s more on our dividend investments.
Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, totaled $1,306 for the month which was several hundred dollars less than last month.
My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) was $550 for the month of June which represents two sessions of two hours each. The consulting income has been relatively steady the past few months after taking a big hit during March and April.
“Travel” income of $836 comes from all the cancellations and refunds from our summer trip. In this case it’s the cruise deposit from our August cruise plus the taxes on one flight in South America. I have received almost $2,000 additional travel refunds in August so far. After a herculean effort, we were able to obtain full refunds of all cash and miles expended for our entire 9 week summer vacation through Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.
The “deposit income” totaled $48 in July. These funds came from cash back and incentive bonuses from the Ebates.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals (some of which was earned from you readers signing up through these links).
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The final $36 of income received during July came from our dental insurance company. We bought a new dental insurance policy in July for Mrs. Root of Good and the coverage is already paying off. Hopefully we’ll get another big reimbursement check in August or September for a significant dental procedure.
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Now let’s take a look at July expenses:
In total, we spent $3,035 during July which is about $300 less than our regularly budgeted $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year). Healthcare/dental and home maintenance topped the spending categories for the month.
Detailed breakdown of spending:
Healthcare/Medical/Dental – $1,413:
Our 2020 healthcare premiums are $123 per month thanks to very generous Affordable Care Act subsidies that we receive due to our low ~$40,000 per year Adjusted Gross Income. The benefit of being “poor” on our tax return.
Both of the adults in our household bought dental insurance since the premiums are anticipated to be much less than the actual dental care we receive during 2020. The premiums total $64 per month for the two of us.
Mrs. Root of Good needed a root canal to fix a previous root canal procedure from about a decade ago. Apparently these things can go bad after a while.
Mrs. Root of Good chose the best endodontist in town. Unfortunately this specialized dentist does not take insurance. However our dental insurance provides a fairly reasonable reimbursement for out of network dentists. I’m hoping we get about $900 in reimbursement for the procedure. We paid just over half the cost in July ($1,225) and will pay the remainder once the procedure is finished in August.
Home Maintenance – $771:
Since we are stuck at home, we’ve been thinking about home improvement projects to tackle while we have plenty of free time.
The kitchen and dining room flooring was already old and showing wear when we bought our house 17 years ago. It was time to replace the old flooring with a nice modern looking engineered vinyl plank (EVP) flooring. The flooring material cost $629 which was about $3 per square foot for just over 200 square feet of floor area.
We spent a lot more to get some fairly high end flooring materials. The cheap stuff runs about half the cost of what we paid. Since our house is 50 years old, the floor isn’t perfectly even. So we needed some thicker vinyl planks. Another benefit is the printed wood pattern layer is about twice as thick on our planks (0.50 mm) compared to the cheap stuff (0.20 to 0.30 mm).
The material is pretty awesome. It’s totally waterproof, so we don’t have to worry about spills in the kitchen or dining room.
We spent another $136 on various materials and supplies like liquid nails, metal nails, tacks, screws, and caulk. That also includes the purchase of a $100 impact driver for my brother in law. He was the brains and brawn behind the installation job so this was a little “thank you” gift. And he needed it to get into a tight space between the joists underneath the house to shore up a squeaky spot in the floor.
The squeak is fixed and the finished floor looks great!
To close out the home maintenance category, we spent another $9 on an upper rack replacement dishwasher spray arm spinner. After a wash cycle finished, I realized the old spray arm spinner popped off and landed in the upper rack. The tiny plastic pin holding the spray arm spinner in place was stripped out from a decade of washing one or two loads of dishes every day.
I’m basically a pro at repairing our dishwasher now, so the replacement only took about five minutes.
Groceries – $641:
Grocery expenses were a bit higher than usual in July, but that comes after spending less than $300 in June. So averaged over the whole summer, we’re still keeping groceries to a very modest level.
I’m still using Walmart Grocery pick up service several times per month along with visits to Aldi, Lidl, and Food Lion. The Walmart grocery pickers put together your order for you and you just drive up and click a button on the Walmart app to get them to bring the order out to you. The best part is you pay the same low prices as they offer in-store to all their customers and there is no delivery fee.
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Utilities – $154:
The city water, sewer, and trash bill was $131 for July.
The natural gas bill for hot water was $0 since we got a $150 rebate in the form of a bill credit when we installed our new tankless water heater in May. I still have over $100 in credit balance on the natural gas account.
In February I paid $602 for electricity which left us with a huge credit balance. After five months, we finally used up all that credit and had a small $23 bill in July. Our electric utility no longer charges a convenience fee when paying with credit cards, so going forward I’ll just pay the balance each month. I used to pay a big lump sum to minimize the credit card convenience fees assessed by the utility.
In the future, I may pay a big lump sum toward the electric bill if I need to spend a lot of money at one time to qualify for a credit card sign up bonus. It’s an easy way to generate some quick spending on something we will definitely use.
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Restaurants – $41:
We don’t go out to eat a lot in general. We go out even less now given the whole global pandemic thing going on.
In July, we celebrated Mrs. Root of Good’s birthday. I picked up fried chicken from Bojangle’s and some pizza (for $41 total) to accompany her birthday cake ($19 but I included that in groceries).
Cable/Satellite – $18:
We pay $18 per month for a local reduced rate package due to having a lower income and having kids. 30 mbit/s download, 4 mbit/s upload.
Gasoline – $0:
I wanted to list this expense in case anyone was wondering. We don’t drive a lot, so we don’t buy gas every month. We’re back at a half tank now so we’ll probably have to refuel again in September!
Total Spending for 2020 – Year to Date
Our spending totals $18,259 for the first seven months of the year. This is $5,000 less than the $23,333 we budgeted for seven months of our $40,000 annual early retirement budget.
We are still well under budget in spite of some notably higher than normal spending in a couple of categories.
We spent $3,700 in May on a new tankless water heater, plus another $762 on new floors in July. During the June to August period we will end up spending around $2,500 on various dental procedures and office visits for the two adults in the household.
The good news is that the higher home maintenance and dental costs will be offset by lower travel spending. So far we have spent basically nothing on travel after netting out the refunds on all the travel we had booked for this summer.
In other travel news, we planned on visiting Spain for two weeks in October. In July, we made the tough decision to cancel this trip given European travel restrictions for Americans. The pandemic is once again surging in Spain and it’s no fun to travel when you’re worried about getting sick or having your trip majorly interrupted.
Plus, I assume a lot of tourist attractions and restaurants will be closed if we were to continue with our plans to visit Spain in October. That’s no fun! We can make this trip happen at some point in the future I hope.
Monthly Expense Summary for 2020:
- January – $2,682
- February – $2,618
- March – $1,600
- April – $1,324
- May – $4,692
- June – $2,311
- July – $3,035
Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:
- 2014 – $34,352
- 2015 – $23,802
- 2016 – $38,991
- 2017 – $31,708
- 2018 – $29,058
- 2019 – $25,630
- 2020 (year to date) – $18,259
Net Worth: $2,133,000 (+$70,000)
July left us richer once again. With strong stock market gains, our fortunes keep on rising. We are up more than $600,000 from our recent lows at the bottom of the stock market in March. Who would have imagined this?!
I didn’t really do anything during the month with my investments other than collect those sweet dividends.
Life is good. What else can I say? We made a plan to retire early and executed on that plan.
Seven years ago I left the work force and never looked back. In those seven years we have traveled all over the globe (when possible) and enjoyed a lifetime supply of leisurely pursuits.
Our portfolio increased by more than 50% since I quit work. We have no real fears of ever running out of money for various reasons. Our spending remains low even when we hit a few unexpected bumps in the road (because we planned for them).
While it’s a bummer that we can’t travel anywhere in the near term, there are upsides. We have more time to focus on projects around the house and to buy some technology and household upgrades. Money is no problem because we are spending thousands of dollars less than normal on vacations.
Here we are at the end of summer vacation, just a few days away from our kids’ return to school. It’s going to look very different this fall since all three of ours will be enrolled in the “Virtual Academy” for at least the fall semester. We opted for the fully online distance education option.
The alternative was a mash up of some in-person learning plus some online learning where classrooms would be one-third full each week. Maybe. Except they will start out all online initially for an undetermined length of time. Or never go in person at all. Or maybe return to 100% of students in class every week.
We opted for the simpler Virtual Academy that brings more consistency and safety for our kids each week. It will definitely feel different going “back to school” this year!
The oldest two kids just received their high school daily schedule and it consists of four hours of online courses before lunch. After 12:00 they are done with scheduled activities for the day. They may spend less time on school this fall than they do when attending in person!
I’m looking forward to the fall, too. Cooler weather means more comfortable days lounging outside and enjoying the outdoors. And campfires!
Okay, folks. Thanks for tuning in to another edition of the Life and Times of Root of Good. See you next month!
Are you ready for summer to be over? How are you hanging in there?
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